Karl Haglund interview

Neil Martin has a chat with Karl Haglund about guitars and art:

Karl Haglund is an artist based in Charles City, Iowa. He specialises in cityscapes, abstracts and more recently he has been turning heads with his paintings of iconic guitars. So far he has painted around 40 classic guitars and basses from the rock pantheon including Kurt Cobain’s 1965 Sunburst Fender Jaguar and Neil Young’s 1953 Gibson Les Paul ‘Old Black’. The meticulously researched paintings are a music geek’s dream and deserve to be hanging on any self-respecting indie rock fan’s wall.

Where did the idea come from to paint your first guitar?

The idea for the guitar paintings came from Will Johnson of Centro-matic. I am a big fan of Will’s art – it is very unpretentious and sort of poetic in a hobo/beatnik type of way. Unassuming, sort of. It’s simple, but at the same time very meaningful. The ghostly faces of deceased baseball players – half the face on the canvas and the other half in eternity. The story/bio next to them. Its really the idea of the story with a painting that I was influenced by. I took that and applied it to his Watertank Custom guitar by Creston Lea of Vermont. I loved the guitar and the story Creston wrote about the wood used for it and thought it would make a great painting. I feel like it did. I gave the painting to Will. He loves it as much as I did and that makes me pretty happy. Not because he is Will Johnson of Centro-matic, the greatest band on the face of the earth, but because I respect him as an artist. It’s validation for me personally as an artist. To have someone I admire also respect something I do artistically.

What was the first guitar you painted?

The first painting I did was the Will Johnson painting – that pretty much started it all. The second was the Jay Farrar Okemah Custom. Both of those paintings are cut from the same cloth, sort of. I originally did a painting called The Machine that was two 24×48″ canvases together. I decided to paint over it after a bit – sometimes I just get sick of a painting and want to use the canvas for something more meaningful. Those canvases became the first 2 guitar paintings – Will and Jays.

How do you choose the guitars you paint?

Mostly based on my musical tastes. I paint guitars of people I admire. Sometimes I paint a guitar just because it is a cool guitar. Steven Drodz’s Jazzmaster, Bo Diddley’s Cigar box Gretsch, Joe Strummer’s 66 Tele – I am not a huge fan of any of those guys, but their guitars are cool. I dont dislike them, but have never gotten heavy into their music for whatever reason.

Have any of the musicians seen/commented/bought paintings of their guitars?

Will Johnson has his hanging up next to his piano and some Texas longhorns in his Austin home. Anders Parker has the one I did of his guitar. Krist Novoselic of Nirvana gave his nod of approval on my Nirvana guitars. Ryan Adams tweeted me all the info for the painting I did of his Buck Owens American acoustic.

What is your favourite guitar painting?

My favorites are the Ryan Adams one because I got the info straight from him – it’s sold now. I’m also still in love with the Jay Farrar, Kurt Cobain, and Nels Cline paintings.

Do you have a favourite type of guitar to paint?

I have been on a Jazzmaster kick lately. Painting quite a few. J Mascis, Nels Cline, Steven Drodz, Thurston Moore. Love Jazmasters. I just love the way it looks all beat up and abused. Really, any guitar that has been worn down to the wood is fun to paint. Stickers can be a pain in the ass, but I still like to paint them – adds lots of color to the guitar.

Are there any guitars you are desperate to paint that you haven’t done yet?

I have ideas on future paintings. Im almost 50 paintings into this and I can still get excited. I’m starting Johnny Ramone’s white Mosrite soon – I am excited about that one. Also have a couple cool Stratocasters coming.

Are there any guitars/artists you would refuse to paint?

The list is endless. Someone asked if I could do a Taylor Swift guitar. I said I could, but I won’t. Things like that. Not interested. I suppose I might quietly do something like that on a commission basis, but I would charge quite a bit to cover the booze I would need to drink to live with myself.

Apart from the guitars what else have you been working on recently?

I recently did an album cover for a band called Greater Pacific out of California (Neil’s interview with the band will be at Something You Said later this week – Ed). The album called Incandescent will be released in September of this year on YerBird records. I am proud to be a part of that. It is my go-to drive album as of late. Other than that I have been fortunate to work with a few realtors here and there that are using my cityscape paintings for their business cards, thank you cards, and closing gifts. That has been pretty good to me. I plan on finishing up 100 guitars by next year, continuing to work on my cityscapes, and mastering the art of screenprinting. I’d like to land some concert posters eventually. Whatever I can do to make money at art so I can drop out of grad school and paint full time. Not a whore, but a dream-catcher!

You can check out Karl’s work, buy prints or even originals if you’ve got the dough at http://www.karlhaglund.com. He does take commissions so if you have a favourite musician’s guitar that you’d like to see immortalised on canvas then get in touch with him. Karl can be found at his website, on Twitter and on Facebook.



Interview by Neil Martin